Re: It's confusing
@frank ly said: "I'm having difficulty undertstanding all that. 'Robot', 'unit', 'section', 'fixture', .... are robot/unit and section/fixture the same thing? "
The "robot" will be the big mechanical arm which moves about. In this case the manufacturer will be either Fanuc or Nachi. Those are two different robot companies, so it's hard to understand why both are involved unless of course both brands of robots were present.
Lincoln Electric makes welding equipment. The robots may have had Lincoln welders on the end of their arms, or they may have been loading parts into equipment that had Lincoln welders.
A "fixture" will be a unit of custom tooling that is machined to hold and clamp the parts being manufactured. The fixtures would be attached to the frame of the work cell, or to the end of a robot arm.
A "unit" or "section" would be subdivision of the larger overall production line. Those are not necessarily the terms used by the manufacturing companies, they may be just names made up by the lawyer. The sections being labelled "130" and "140" doesn't imply that there are 140 or more "sections". The work cells may be divided up into smaller sub-divisions, and there may be an implied decimal such that it was the 13th or 14th "section", or even the 1st section. You would have to see the electrical and mechanical layout to understand how it was labelled.
The overall production line will have been built in sections at the integrator, run off and approved by the customer. Then the sections would have been unbolted and unplugged from one another, put on trucks and shipped to the customer where they would have been bolted and plugged back together, tested, etc.
Flex-N-Gate appears to be the company that owns the factory in question. They're a large automotive parts manufacturer with multiple plants, and this is one of them.
Prodomax is a large Canadian automation manufacturer located north of Torronto. Their role in this will have been to design and build the production line. They would have bought the robots and loads of other components and designed them into the production line, built the framework and tooling, done loads of wiring, written software, etc. Fanuc, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric would likely have had very peripheral involvement in the actual project.
I've done business with Prodomax as a customer (although not recently), and they were a well run very professional organisation. They've won awards for being a well managed company. The chances that they did anything dodgy or cut any corners on safety are pretty slim, although it is of course impossible to discount some sort of human error.
If their customer was in Ontario, the equipment would have had to go through a formal safety review by a certified safety engineer (usually an independent third party consultant). I don't know what Prodomax does, but I do know that other Canadian companies won't sell equipment to US customers without a similar review simply because of legal liability reasons. I know of at least one small automation company who stopped doing business in the US because the cost of liability insurance there was too high to make it worthwhile when they could pursue business opportunities elsewhere.
Normal safety practice in a case where you are entering a work cell such as this to do maintenance is to lock out the equipment power switch with a padlock for which only you have a key. If there are multiple people involved, there are special attachments which allow multiple individual padlocks to be attached. If you go home and forget your padlock, then your supervisor has to talk to you on the phone and confirm your presence there before cutting the lock off with a set of bolt cutters.
In cases where you need the robotic equipment "live" to diagnose a problem, then you would insert a key into the machine somewhere to change the mode, and plug in a "three position switch". This would be a hand-held device, sometimes built into the robot teach pendant, which only allows the robot to move in very slow motion if the switch is in a middle position. If you let go of it or squeeze it too hard, the slow moving robot is disabled. This is a standard feature built into the robot itself, and is very reliable.
The reports say that the person in question worked in the maintenance department. As such, she should have been well trained in safety procedures. The equipment will have come with extensive manuals (not that anyone generally reads such things) which would have covered this. Whether she was authorised to enter the machine at that time is of course one of the questions which will likely be raised in the lawsuit.
The reports say that her duties involved adjusting the robot and tooling. Quite likely, she was the person whose job it was to tweak the robot to adjust for variations in the incoming component dimensions or material to deal with quality issues.
The reports are unclear, but it is quite possible that multiple different groups of people were working on different tasks in different parts of the work cell, and one group triggered an adjacent robot to cycle when she was in the machine working on another. Normally I would have expected her to lock out the adjacent robot before working on her own. Why that didn't take place is a very good question, and one that can probably be only answered by the supervisors working for her employer.